Environmental debate the ‘final straw’ for people with disability

Posted 1 year ago by Nicole Pope

Cheap and accessible single-use plastic straws play an important role and are considered a necessity for people with disability. [Source:Shutterstock]
Cheap and accessible single-use plastic straws play an important role and are considered a necessity for people with disability. [Source:Shutterstock]

Recent debate by environmental activists into the ban of single-use plastic straws has fuelled outrage amongst the disability community.

Cheap and accessible single-use plastic straws play an important role and are considered a necessity for people with disability.

People with disabilities and advocates have taken to social media platform Twitter to voice their concerns, saying the alternatives pose risk of harm to the people who need them for basic needs, such as drinking.

“We don’t support a ban on  plastic straws and we want campaigners to listen to people with disability about why it is bad idea,” People with Disability Australia says.

“Many alternatives won’t work for people with disability. We support people who want to #skipthestraw #refusethestraw but a ban will hurt many people with disability.”

Julia Pillai, a Victorian-based Twitter user weighed in on the discussion, saying, “people with disabilities need plastic straws - no, the enviro alternatives DON’T work - and plastic straws were made originally for people with disabilities.”

Ms Pillai also tweeted that she has seen her good friends who have disabilities depend on straws to drink.

“I do not have a disability where I rely on plastic straws. I do have good friends who do have disabilities where they rely on straws,” she says.

“I’m pretty educated but my knowledge is only a stepping stone. The environmental revolution will be accessible.”

Another Twitter user also says more needs to be done before an outright ban on plastic straws is implemented, tweeting that… 

“We *cannot* ban an accessibility aid until an alternative that works for EVERY disabled person exists.”

Executive Officer of Physical Disability Council of New South Wales (PDCN), Serena Ovens says more research is required to find an accessible, inclusive and environmentally friendly alternative that will meet all needs.

“Whilst PDCN supports environmental responsibility and would always push for taking an environmentally friendly approach (and suggest anyone that can choose an alternative do so), we would caution on making a ‘blanket ban’ on plastic straws until there is a better alternative for people with disability to use,” she says.

She also acknowledges that whilst there are numerous alternative options for plastic straws including metal, bamboo, paper and glass, many have ‘significant drawbacks’ for people with disability.

These drawbacks can include the potential for choking, too solid in structure to allow for bending or positioning that may be needed for an individual to get into their mouth from a required angle, physical damage or injury, collapsing if ‘sucked on’ too hard, unhygienic or unsafe at high temperatures.

The debate is just another way people with disabilities are often excluded from conversations that directly impact them and follows from an announcement of a ban on single-use plastic bags by supermarket giants Coles and Woolworths.

For more information on disability support and services, please visit DisabilitySupportGuide.com.au

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